NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — President Donald Trump mocked and disparaged the news media on Friday in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, repeating his attack that much of the press represents “the enemy of the people.”
“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news,” Trump told attendees.
“A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are,” he added, referring to a tweet last week. “They are the enemy of the people because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”
He also said reporters “shouldn’t be allowed” to use unnamed sources.
Anonymity allows sources to speak candidly to journalists about sensitive topics that might otherwise be out of bounds, and to blow the whistle on wrongdoing without fear of retribution.
As recently as Friday morning, Trump’s own White House held what’s known as a background briefing with reporters, declining to use their names to respond to a report about contacts between the administration and the FBI.
Attacks on the media defined Trump’s campaign and have been a major theme of his first month in office. On Friday, it took the president roughly a minute to call out the “dishonest media,” after telling the attendees in the crowded ballroom to sit down.
“The dishonest media, they’ll say, ‘He didn’t get a standing ovation,'” Trump said. “You know why? Because everybody stood and nobody sat.”
Trump quickly shifted to more serious critiques of the media.
He complained that the media mischaracterized his tweet last week, in which he called “the fake news media” — specifically citing The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN — the “enemy of the American people.”
Coverage of that tweet, Trump said, ignored the nuance.
“They didn’t say that I said ‘the fake news,'” Trump said.
In fact, many news outlets published or aired Trump’s tweet in its entirety.
“I’m not against the press,” he insisted. “I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them.”
Trump has targeted CNN and The New York Times more than most other outlets. In his speech at CPAC, Trump referred to CNN as “the Clinton News Network” and said its polls should not be trusted.
“Take a look at their polls over the last two years,” he said. “You’d think they’d fire the pollster, right?”
In fact, CNN’s final national poll of polls before election day showed Hillary Clinton with an advantage of 3 percentage points. She won the popular vote by 2.1 points, well within the margin of error for most polls.
But the attack has been a longstanding Trump strategy. He tweeted earlier this month, inaccurately, that “Any negative polls are fake news.”
Last month, after the release of a CNN/ORC poll showing his approval rating at 40 percent, Trump said it was “rigged” and no different from “the phony election polls.”
Trump told the CPAC crowd that the polls create “a false narrative,” which he urged his supporters to “fight.”
“They’re very smart,” he said of the news media. “They’re very cunning and they’re very dishonest.”